It’s been a placid morning in Flagler Beach. Seven surfers are attempting to catch unconvincing waves on the south side of the pier. The usual brood of fishermen is welcoming an overcast, damp morning on the pier. Crows are making their infernal racket. If it weren’t for a row of television news crews lined up on the north side of the pier, their satellite antennas craned to the sky in a desperate search for something to find, you wouldn’t know there was something amiss here.
And there isn’t.
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People thought there was, just before midnight Tuesday, when drinkers at Finn’s, the restaurant and bar at the corner of State Road 100 and A1A, whose balcony offers a prime view of the ocean, reported seeing a fireball over the Atlantic. Like creationists who can pinpoint the birth of the planet at 4004 B.C., they reportedly pinpointed the distance, too: eight miles from shore. This was, literally, in the middle of the night.
The reports unleashed more than speculation.
And bemusement. Dan Cody, the Flagler Beach police chief, didn’t know what to make of the reports. “I don’t know,” he said, when asked about the speculation. “They woke me up and said they saw a big flash. Somebody said it was a flare, and they said no, it was something bigger than a flare, it was more of a flash, and they speculated it might have been a plane or something, so anyway, the fire department went out, the FWC went out,” that’s the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “they couldn’t find anything. They called the Coast Guard, they haven’t found anything, to my knowledge. Then I heard it was something somewhere around the Topaz, something set off the beach, something that made a big explosion. That’s all I know. I don’t have a clue.”
Later in the morning, there were reports of people setting off a celebration lantern at the southern end of town. That’s the sort of thing that soars into the sky and either peters out or burns out, sometimes falling back down in a modest fireball.
A helicopter had flown off the coast of Flagler Beach in early morning, part of several agencies’ searches. Just before 9 a.m. (as this story was being written) the Coast Guard was saying that it was getting ready to call off the search.
“I’m sure it was something. People saw something,” Cody said. “The way it was told to me last night there were 25 or 30 people up at Finn’s that saw this flash. Hopefully we’ll find out what it is, hopefully it wasn’t anything serious.”
Just as the Coast Guard was calling off its search, the television crews were calling off theirs. Antennas dropped. Cameras were packed up. Vans rolled out.